Claire Kim takes a selfie during an online home party with friends on June 22. (Claire Kim’s Instagram)
Kang Seol-ah, 31, was supposed to be on Jeju Island for summer vacation this week, but instead, she chose to buy a small tent and decorative light bulbs to set the camping mood at home.
The resurgence of the coronavirus has scared her, as it has forced restaurants and tourist sites to close early, even on the southern resort island known as the cleanest region in South Korea. Her plan B was camping at home, lounging on a camping chair and drinking ice cold beer in her new linen dress from H&M with her husband wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and a flowery Hawaiian shirt. A nap inside the tent she erected in her small living room felt a lot different, she said, calling it a moment of emancipation from virus-hit daily lives.
As a self-reward for giving up on exotic moments in Jeju, she also bought a new 85-inch TV and a Wi-Fi stereo set to turn her home into a camping site and theater.
“My ‘vacance-at-home’ plan became a bit special because we have the Summer Olympics to watch and cheer for. And I do not have to cook, drive and worry about mosquitoes. We can get fresh seafood and meat here in Seoul with fast delivery, even from hotel restaurants as they offer luxury meals at an affordable price,” she said.
Kang is one among many Koreans who plan to spend a safe vacation at home in this pandemic era. With rising numbers of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases across every region in Korea, it is not easy to visit tourist sites full of potential coronavirus carriers.
But vacationers do not necessarily find it gloomy to be stuck at home during vacation. They are embracing the semi-lockdown situation by having “safe but fun” stay-home vacations.
“In the face of COVID-19, where society is gearing toward contract-free culture, digitally native younger generations are constantly setting new trends of lifestyle. They share at-home vacation experiences via social media that in turn create a new culture,” said Gwak Geum-joo, a professor at Seoul National University.
Statistics show at-home vacations will be the trend throughout this summer, as many Koreans will pass on outdoor summer vacations.
According to a survey conducted this month by online payment service provider Lotte Members, 3,100 out of 5,000 respondents answered they do not plan to go on vacation this summer. Of those 3,100, 1,950 replied they are afraid of the fast rise of the highly contagious delta variant. Additionally, 1,088 answered they either could not take a couple of days off or could not afford to go on vacation.
Camping supplies are displayed at Play Monkey in Youngdeungpo-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Some young people are having home parties and connecting with friends online. Even though the social distancing rules ban most social gatherings, they can meet up in virtual spaces and eat and drink in real time.
Claire Kim, a yoga instructor and YouTube creator, held a small at-home party via Zoom last month.
“I wanted to meet my best friends who live in Spain during the vacation. But it was obviously impossible due to the COVID-19 situation. So I planned an online stay-at-home party for the first time. It has been a difficult year for all of us in the ongoing pandemic and I wanted to celebrate our endeavors to have endured drastic challenges in our lives,” Kim said.
According to Kim, it was a “summer vacation on the beach” theme party. Kim wore a Hawaiian shirt, held a guitar-shaped balloon and danced to the music. Kim and two friends each brought finger food and cocktails. Although they could not taste each other’s food and drinks, they felt the “beach vibe,” Kim said.
“My friend’s husband showed us how to make cocktails via Zoom. It was as if I was there with them,” Kim added.
Kim thinks online at-home parties can be one of the safest alternative channels for social gatherings. For Kim, throwing at-home parties online has many advantages.
“People can feel easily isolated because of the social distancing. Online parties make them feel they are not alone. Also it’s safe, not to mention convenient, and cost- and time-efficient,” Kim said.
‘Vacance-at-home’ in style
Alcohol beverages are displayed at a supermarket in Seoul, on July 20. (Yonhap)
At-home vacations, however, require a bit of effort to create that right, extra fancy “vacance” mood.
Vacationers can’t light up a fire for barbecues inside a residential unit, but they can cook meat with a small, electric-powered grill at a veranda with windows open. Decorating the dead space, usually used for plants and extra storage, with outdoor furniture and artificial grass mats or assembled wooden decking adds color to an at-home vacation.
Kim Ji-min, an influencer on Naver known by her nickname Harista, also recommends setting up a mini pool, to create a indoor pool vibe.
Kim laid out an anti-slip mat on the veranda and put an inflatable swimming pool on top. There were a lot of easy-to-make mini swimming pool kits that include tube pumps, Kim said.
“It was a bit shabby compared to hotel swimming pools. But my son seemed to have a great time. He had a water gun fight with his dad and we threw water balloons at each other,” Kim said.
Creating a beachy atmosphere with cheap accessories can also be refreshing.
“Since I can‘t spend my vacation at a resort hotel, I have added a rattan touch in the interior design,” interior designer Silvia says on her YouTube channel.
Furniture giants like Ikea and Zara Home offers rattan-made items such as shelves, dishes, slippers and baskets, she suggests. Attaching green tiles to the walls is also a way of bringing green summer vibes, she added.